All there is to know about colour dimorphism in butterflies

The most dramatic example of this in the Durban South area is the gaudy commodore butterfly. In winter it is mostly blue with some red, however in summer it is mostly red with some black markings.

THERE is so much more to butterflies than what meets the eye.

Their colour and shape dimorphism is intriguing.

Dimorphic means to occur in or representing in two distinct forms. For the most part sexual dimorphism in butterflies is not too common, with the exception of a few species such as the mocker swallow-tail butterfly and the common diadem.

The male and female mocker swallow-tail butterflies have totally different wing shapes and patterns between the two sexes. Only the male has the ‘swallow-tail’ shaped wings.

While the male and female common diadems are the same size and shape, their colouring is vastly different, the males are black with a big white eye spot on each wing and the female is orange in colour, often mimicking the look of the African monarch butterfly.

There are quite a few species of butterfly that have a vastly different appearance in summer as opposed to winter.

The most dramatic example of this in the Durban South area is the gaudy commodore butterfly. In winter it is mostly blue with some red, however in summer it is mostly red with some black markings.

This, however, does not mean the red butterfly changes its colour in winter. The new butterflies that emerge in the winter months are blue in colour and the ones that emerge in summer are red in colour.

In early spring and autumn it is sometimes possible to get what is called and intermediate version, where the butterfly is a mix of the two different colour forms.

For the most part the reason for the colour difference between seasons is to be able to easily blend into their surroundings.

On cooler winter days these butterflies are known to congregate in large numbers in the shade of walls and river banks.

These butterflies can be attracted to your garden with flowers.

Contact Warren Dick to have some of your interesting spiders, snakes or other wildlife identified, call or WhatsApp him on 072-211-0353. Follow the conversation on Facebook, Warren’s Small World.

 

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